Belles on Their Toes

Belles on Their Toes


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Life is very different now in the rambling Gilbreth house.When the youngest was two and the oldest eighteen, Dad died and Mother bravely took over his business. Now, to keep the family together, everyone has to pitch in and pinch pennies. The resourceful clan rises to every crisis with a marvelous sense of fun — whether it's battling chicken pox, giving the boot to an unwelcome boyfriend, or even meeting the President. And the few distasteful things they can't overcome — like castor oil — they swallow with good humor and good grace. Belles on Their Toes is a warm, wonderful, and entertaining sequel to Cheaper by the Dozen.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060598235
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 12/16/2003
Series: Harper Perennial
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 339,515
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

About the Author

Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. was born in 1911 in Plainfield, New Jersey, and graduated from the University of Michigan. He became a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy during World War II and received a Bronze Star and Air Medal. In 1947, he joined the staff of what is now the Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina. A columnist and reporter, he authored and coauthored several books, including Belles on Their Toes (with Ernestine Gilbreth Carey), How to Be a Father, and Time Out for Happiness. In 1950, he was corecipient (with his sister) of the French International Humor Award for Cheaper by the Dozen. He died in 2001.

Ernestine Gilbreth Carey was born in 1908 in New York City and graduated as an English major from Smith College. In 1930, soon after graduation, she began fourteen years of New York City department store buying and management. Meanwhile, she married and had two children. A writer and lecturer, she has authored and coauthored seven books, including Belles on Their Toes (with Frank Gilbreth Jr.), Jumping jupiter, Rings Around Us, and Giddy Moment. In 1950 she was corecipient (with her brother) of the French International Humor Award for Cheaper by the Dozen. She lives in Reedley, California.

Read an Excerpt

Belles on Their Toes

Chapter One

Something for Dad

Mother was going to Europe and leave us by ourselves. It was not an easy thing, but it was something she had to do for Dad. For us, too.

Frank carried her suitcases down the front steps to a taxicab parked under the porte-cochere of our house in Montclair, New Jersey. The driver climbed out of his air-cooled Franklin, and gave a hand.

"You the oldest boy?" he asked Frank.

Frank told him he was. Frank was thirteen.

"It's going to be tough on your Mother. All you kids, and you the oldest boy."

Everyone knew it was going to be tough. There wasn't any use talking about that.

"I'll put them on the train myself," said the driver, pointing his head at the suitcases. "I heard about your father."

Frank climbed the stairs and joined the rest of us on the porch, just outside the front door. That was where we usually said good-by when Dad went away on trips.

Dad had died three days before, on June 14, 1924. It seemed longer. He had had a heart attack at the railroad station in Montclair. It had happened in a telephone booth, while he was talking with Mother over the phone.

Dad liked regimentation and liked everything to be done by a system. He even had assigned each of us a number, which he used for routing intra-family correspondence and memoranda.

Mother wasn't that way. But from habit we lined up on the porch as we would have for Dad -- ages and in a sort of company front formation.

Anne, the oldest -- was eighteen -- at the tall end of the line. Jane, the youngest -- quite two -- at the short end. In between were Ernestine, Martha, Frank, Bill, Lillian, Fred, Dan, Jack, and Bob.

Anne told us to "dress right" on her. Dad always liked the line to be straight. We waited there for Mother.

We still weren't accustomed to seeing her in black. She looked tense and alone as she pushed open the screen door and came to the head of the steps. We wished she'd let some of us go with her to the boat, or at least to the Montclair station.

Mother stood there, tall, slim, and quite beautiful. Her figure never even whispered that she had had a dozen children. Her veil was pushed back over her hat, and her face was white and taut.

A few strands of red hair, the only part of Mother's person that wouldn't do her bidding, curled defiantly from under her hat. Everything else was black and white.

Whenever Dad said good-bye there on the porch, he always made believe we were secretly glad to get rid of him. Nothing could have been further from the truth, because we worshiped him, and he knew it. But he'd say we were only waiting for him to get out of earshot, before we'd start a wild celebration that would run far into the night. He'd tell us our long faces didn't fool him any, and that some day he was going to ride around the block and come back and catch us decking the halls with boughs of holly, building a bonfire, burning him in effigy, and -- biggest sin of all -- using one of his Durham-Duplex razors.

Mother didn't want us to know how she felt about leaving, so she smiled and tried to act like Dad.

"Those long faces don't fool me any," she boomed as heartily as she could."Just as soon as I'm out of sight ..." The boom dropped to a whisper, and then she couldn't go on at all. She held out her arms and we broke ranks and burrowed into them.

She didn't trust herself to talk for a while, and neither did we. Finally she pulled herself loose and started down the stairs. Just before she got to the cab, she turned and looked at us -- each one of us.

Mother has a way of making each child know he means something very special to her. Not just as one of the group, but as an individual person who has his own special claim on her heart.

"I love you so," she said quietly." I would never leave you, if it didn't seem the only way we can stay together later on. You know that, don't you?"

We knew it, all right. Most of Dad's money had gone back into his business. Mother was going to try to operate the business herself -- was one reason the trip to Europe was necessary. If she failed,the family might have to be divided or to move in on Mother's relatives on the West Coast.

Mother's mother had invited all of us to come and live with her, in Oakland, California. Since there were so many of us, Mother thought it would be a bit of an imposition -- in fact, than she was willing to impose on anyone, even her own mother. Several of Dad's friends had offered to adopt some of us. None of us wanted that.

"Don't worry about us," Anne assured Mother now. "Everything will be hotsy, honest!"

"I'm sure it will, dear," Mother smiled. "Not only hotsy, but totsy, too."

The driver started to help her into the cab.

"I'm sorry about your husband," he said.

"Thank you very much." Now Mother's voice sounded far away.

"I talked to a fellow that saw it happen. It must have been an awful shock for you."

"Shut up," Frank whispered fiercely. "Why can't he just shut up?"

Anne nudged Frank sharply, and he was quiet.

We got back into line as the cab started down the driveway. We could see Mother waving from the window in the back.

Lillian, who was ten, burst into tears ...

Belles on Their Toes. Copyright © by Frank B. Gilbreth. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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